Occasionally I've been asked why I preach from a particular Bible translation called the English Standard Version (ESV), so I want to use this week's email to explain why. There are some other important updates, so please be sure to read all the way through.
When translators begin to translate ancient texts into English, they decide on and adhere to a particular translation principle. One of the principles they use is to translate the text word for word. Using this method, translators are especially cautious to translate every word from its original language (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, etc.) into English.
Whenever I prepare a message, I try to use a variety of translations to find accuracy in whatever passage we're studying. From a preaching perspective, word-for-word translations are the best to study because they provide the most accurate intended meaning. Some word-for-word translations are:
-New American Standard Bible (NASB)
-English Standard Version (ESV)
-New King James Version (NKJV)
-King James Version (KJV)
I prefer to use the ESV translation when I preach, or when I use scripture passages in my weekly emails. By far, the most common translation on people's bookshelves is the KJV. It's a word-for-word translation, but it uses Old English (from 1620 words like thee, thou, seest, doth, goeth, etc.) which makes it hard for most people to read and understand. For the past 50 years or so, the NASB was used by most theologians, scholars, and teachers because it uses modern English. In my study regarding the various translations, the NASB has difficulty translating poetry. The ESV has corrected some of the issues, especially in the poetry books of the Bible.
In the 1960s, there was a movement to translate the Bible using a thought-for-thought translation principle. Translators would read a complete thought in the original language, then translate it into English. Often words were added or taken away from the original language to help the reader better understand the meaning of the text. Thought for thought Bible translations were written to be accessible and understandable for many people on many levels. For example, most Children's Bibles are based on thought-for-thought versions.
The most commonly used thought-for-thought translations are:
-New International Version (NIV)
-New Living Translation (NLT)
-Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Another method is paraphrasing, which is not really translating. Paraphrasers take word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations (rather than the original language) and interpret them in a way that can be most easily understood. They use modern English, poetry, alliteration, and everyday idioms to make the Bible more readable. I often refer to paraphrases in my study to gain the biggest picture of a text. The most common paraphrases of the Bible are:
-The Message (MSG) by Eugene Peterson
-The Living Bible (TLB)
-The Amplified Bible (AMP)
While I use the ESV to preach, I enjoy reading the NLT and The Message. I hope this provides you with an understanding of the different versions we have available. My advice for you? Pick a version you can follow and spend time reading and studying it. The Bible is an incredible story about God, who is absolutely crazy about you and me.
Grace & Peace,